Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

The premise of Blink is that human beings are good at making instantaneous and generally quite accurate decisions based on very little information. In some cases, apparently, when we have more information, the accuracy of our decisions does not increase along with the rise in information available. Gladwell introduces a number of examples – marriage guidance counsellors who can tell from tiny snippets of film whether a couple’s marriage will survive, tasters who can instantly tell whether re-used ingredients have been used, doctors who use a simple algorithm to determine whether a patient presenting symptoms of heart attack are at real risk – and writes very entertainingly.

However, he has a tendency to repetition, as though the book was based on a series of lectures, and some inclusions, while interesting, don’t exactly agree with the conclusions he draws. The highly accurate “snap decision”, however, seems to be only possible if the person presented with the data and is making the decision is an expert; but Gladwell maintains that even untrained people could make a good guess based on tiny snippets of information.

It’s an interesting book (similar in style to the misnamed Freakonomics, which is more about statistics than economics), and would be good for discussions after reading it, but Gladwell doesn’t seem to make any real point in his book.

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